Iceberg Interactive – Global Agenda review

post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer shooter with no subscription fee
Photo of Iceberg Interactive – Global Agenda
£19.99

We’re a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic romp. Whether it’s films or games, Mad Max or Fallout, there’s nothing like a bit of bleak survivalism in the wreckage of the future to remind you that perhaps the world today isn’t so bad. Or at least, it could be worse.

Global Agenda is set in the year 2155 after a nuclear war, and it ticks a number of post-apocalyptic boxes. There are barren deserts, bits of blown up motorway flyovers dotting the landscape, a load of haywire robots gone psychotic, mad scientists, techie-types obsessed with building stuff from salvaged scrap, and Tina Turner is top of the charts. Oh, and there’s an oppressive one world government which has used the disaster (the war, not Tina Turner’s revival) to take power for the good of the citizens so this sort of thing won’t happen again.

Of course, no good can come of an all-powerful government, and in this massively multiplayer third-person shooter, you play the part of an elite agent working for the resistance against the despotic global commonwealth. Global Agenda has a basic build like a typical MMOG, with four classes (tank, healer, stealth recon and robotics engineer) which can be customised via skill trees, a crafting system, an auction house, guilds, quests and loot, all the usual stuff. But while the foundation consists of these typical elements, the game bolts a lot of interesting PvP (Player versus Player) material on top of this.

And that’s just as well, because if all this agenda contained was the PvE (Player versus Environment) content, the game would flounder to say the least. Not that the PvE facet is particularly poor by nature, but it certainly isn’t perfect, lacking polish in a number of areas. The storyline, characters and general setting are all quite engagingly crafted, although the missions themselves lack spark in their design. They fall into the common unimaginative trap of having too many kill-this-kill-that and other such mundane tasks.

There’s also a lump in this post-apocalyptic porridge where the enemy AI is concerned. This hits regular patches of headless chicken mode, where your foes just run around stupidly, along with attacks of the exact opposite, stand-still-itis. Don’t expect Terminator style killer robots here, rather androids that are seemingly happy to let you hide behind a rock healing, while they crouch down and… well, we’re not sure what they’re up to just crouching there in all honesty. One suggestion springs to mind, but that’s quickly discounted due to the fact that these are robots we’re talking about (although maybe they leave small mounds of ball bearings behind).

It’s also quite easy to cheese your way to victory in some missions, as every player has a rather cool jet-pack bolted onto the back of their armour. This allows players to easily reach higher ledges and cliffs, where it’s possible to safely rain down fire on an enemy and take them out without breaking a sweat. Heights seem a little buggy at times, and we chewed our way through a couple of tough missions by using the jet-pack to get up onto a low rock where the opposition didn’t seem able or willing to fire on us, even though we were only about twenty feet off the ground.

Don’t think that Global Agenda is a pushover, though, because when you are in the thick of combat, the denizens of this MMOG are punishingly accurate. They rarely miss, hitting quite often even when you’re strafe dodging all over the place; plus enemy snipers have an almost unfathomable range. Therefore combat can still be challenging, although other elements of the shooter mechanics work in your favour. Thin enemy robots have large hit-boxes, meaning that it’s quite easy to clip them with rockets.

The problem is these somewhat loose targeting mechanics impart a rather imprecise vibe to this sci-fi shooter. Furthermore, the weapons are disappointingly underwhelming in terms of the overall noise and impact they make. Even the mini-gun and rocket launcher are lacking in punch, with something of a pea-shooter theme running through the game’s gamut of weaponry.

Global Agenda’s standard open zone PvE content is actually very limited, and mainly confined to the earlier levels. As you level up, your monster bashing needs are catered for by so-called special ops, co-operative instanced missions with pick-up groups that you can conveniently queue up for as you go about open zone questing, crafting, auction house browsing and so forth. When enough players are ready, you’ll be whisked off to an instance to complete a one-off operation against the clock; having to take down some huge boss monster, for example.

There are also mercenary missions to partake of, and this is where PvP is introduced. As with the special ops scenarios, you can queue for these while playing PvE. When a mission is ready to go, this time you’re fighting not against the AI, but teams of other players in a diverse range of missions. Some require you to hold objectives, others have one team defending a base, or capture the flag style games where you have to advance a bomb into your opponent’s HQ. There’s a good variety here, with six types of scenario in total, and they’re fast and furious ten-to-fifteen minute bouts which are a blast to play.

Most of the time, anyway, although the team balance is sometimes a bit quirky, and when within the first thirty seconds you realise defeat is inevitable because there are a few too many clueless tanks on your side, that can be frustrating. Such are the dangers of pick-up groups. Another slight negative was the player population on the European servers was rather light, although at off-peak times you can always head to the US servers. However, prepare for some lag in matches played out across the pond, particularly when rooms are filled with multiple combatants all blazing away with rockets, grenades and healing rays.

The story doesn’t end here, as Global Agenda has more layers beyond these mercenary PvP match-ups. Arena combat offers straight PvP fights between teams of four or ten players, and raids offer higher levelled players the chance to take part in some mass battle action, co-operatively defending the resistance colony against a large scale AI invasion. Finally, those who want to get deeply involved in the PvP end game can take their guild and form alliances in a persistent strategic conquest mode, facing off against other alliances, expanding to conquer territories, capture resources, and build up defences.

Company: Iceberg Interactive


Verdict
We'd like to see more open world PvE content than is on offer here, but this is offset by the amount of depth elsewhere in the PvP and other scenarios such as raids and the persistent conquest mode. Global Agenda does lack polish in certain areas, but it's a rather different MMOG experience which we found quite enjoyable on balance. Particularly when you take into account that there's no recurring subscription fee, just a one-off outlay to buy the game.